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I watched the first presidential debate three times: Hillary Clinton won

REUTERS/Mike Segar
Hillary Clinton speaking during the presidential debate at Hofstra University on Monday night.

After watching the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump three times — yes three — there is no question Clinton won the night with a strong performance. 

While the election as a whole may be focused on the differences in the policy positions of Clinton and Trump, the debate itself highlighted the different paths taken by the candidates in preparing for the event at Hofstra University.

Clinton had spent the previous three evenings participating in late-night debate press sessions near her home in New York and was mostly off the campaign trail in the last week.

Trump, on the other hand, maintained an active schedule in the days leading up to the event, and his debate prep was as unconventional as his campaign. He met with his top campaign staff only on Sunday to review strategy. 

Trump attempted to use that schedule to claim he was the stronger candidate, both physically and politically. “I’ve been all over the place,” he said to Clinton. “You decided to stay home, and that’s okay.”

Clinton waited patiently to answer and then responded with one of her best lines of the night. “I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate,” said Clinton. “And yes, I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president. And I think that's a good thing.”

Throughout the entire debate, both candidates appeared on television in split-screen, and the electorate saw two contrasting candidates.

On the left side of the screen was Trump, who interrupted Clinton dozens of times while she was speaking, a guy who repeatedly took sips of water during the debate, gestured with his hands and made wild facial expressions in response to Clinton. 

On the right side of the screen stood Clinton, who controlled the tempo and tenor of the debate, and was an effective advocate for her record as well as for prosecuting Trump on his shortcomings in matters of policies and business.

Trump started the debate strong, but faded 30 minutes in, as Clinton took control and led the Republican nominee down numerous rabbit holes. She poked him on nearly every known weakness, and Trump seemed more than willing to engage Clinton on her terms.  

Near the end of the night, after taking a drink of water, Trump made it clear he didn't believe Clinton had the “stamina” to be president. “I said she doesn’t have the stamina. And I don’t believe she does have the stamina. To be president of this country, you need tremendous stamina.” 

As soon Trump said “stamina” for the third time, you could tell Clinton was ready to swing for the fences. “Well, as soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a ceasefire, a release of dissidents ... or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina,” she said.

Clinton had to deal with questions about her health after she was forced to leave a 9/11 commemoration ceremony early. And her response reminded me of President Ronald Reagan's most famous line during one of his debates with former Vice President Walter Mondale: “I will not make age an issue of this campaign,” Reagan said. “I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience.” It also puts an end to the debate over her health.

In the hours after the debate, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway was in full spin-mode, complaining about Trump's unfair treatment by the media. 

And in the days that follow, we should expect Trump to (try to) explain the statements he made in the debate. He’ll especially need to do so on climate change, as Clinton exposed him as someone who believes the issue is a hoax created by the Chinese.

He’ll also need to explain — again — why he won't release his tax returns, as Clinton effectively raised serious questions as to why Trump has yet to publicly release his tax returns, bucking a trend of disclosure by presidential candidates of nearly 40 years.

And it will be Trump who will need to explain why he trafficked in what Clinton described as a “racist lie that our first black president was not an American citizen.” 

As for Clinton, I believe her performance last evening will give her candidacy a much-needed boost of energy, maybe even give her the sort of “stamina” needed to maintain, and perhaps extend, her lead over Trump.

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Comments (25)

  1. Submitted by William Hunter Duncan on 09/27/2016 - 11:55 am.


    There seems a consensus among punditry that Hillary won. Punditry however has mistaken the draw of Trump from the beginning. Trump sounds like most people talk, he says what he thinks, he says things most politicians won’t touch. Hillary sounds like what she thinks the President of American corp, bank and war empire should sound like. A friend of mine watched with the sound off and called her smug.

    I don’t think the polls are measuring a lot of likely Trump voters, and yet I suspect the pundits will be surprised that Hillary will not get the bump they are expecting. Because the Punditry is the Punditry precisely because they do not seriously question American neoliberal, neocon globalist imperialism.

    That said, both candidates are imperial rot.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/27/2016 - 01:35 pm.


      Excellent word choice. I could see that.

      What word would describe how Trump looked?

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 09/27/2016 - 01:46 pm.

        Only One Word?

        Unhinged. In his better moments, uncertain.

        There were many times where it looked like he was nodding in agreement. There were others when he looked like he was about to say “I didn’t know that!”

  2. Submitted by Kenneth Kjer on 09/27/2016 - 12:07 pm.

    Winner or Loser

    I am not sure how you can pick a winner or a loser in what was broadcast last night. Our so called Presidential debates are not debates, they are more akin to arguments, facilitated by someone who is called a moderator. In a debate the moderator asks predetermined questions and asks the same question to each participant. The moderator does not engage in arguing, conversation or any other type of communication with the participants. The participants are then given a certain amount of time to answer each question and one can keep score by the correctness of the answers. What occurred last night was not by any stretch of the imagination a debate, it could be more correctly called a circus. Neither Clinton nor Trump showed any degree of presidential professionalism. Clinton had smug, conceited look on her face and she also proved she was a very good liar. Trump had an I know better look on his face and he also proved he could lie. So my question is why don’t we have a real debate?

  3. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 09/27/2016 - 12:24 pm.

    Oh,my! I really wish that Trump supporters would turn the sound on during these debates. Hillary Clinton may have looked smug to those who didn’t listen to the way she skewered Trump, time and again, and the way Trump dug himself some deep holes and then kept digging the same holes.

    He yelled, interrupted, filibustered over time limits, went off topic in nonsensical sentences, bragged about stuff that most people would find reprehensible. Clinton drew these responses from him, then skewered him on those points.

    So sad, that Trump’s supporters didn’t her HIM in the first real debate of his life. Presidential? I don’t think so.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/27/2016 - 01:46 pm.


      Many people like myself ignored the he said she said and focused on their plans.

      The reality is that a vote for Hillary is a vote for:
      – higher taxes & more government programs (ie college, healthcare, etc)
      – a continued animosity towards businesses. (is our employers)
      – more constraints on our police
      – continued support of our status quo public education and welfare systems that are harming many who are trapped in generational poverty

      Now I agree that electing Trump carries risks, but electing Clinton carries just as many or more.

      I thought it was interesting that neither discussed the failure of inner city education and child raising when they focused on crime rates. Better Parents and Schools = Fewer Crimes.

      • Submitted by Jeff Christenson on 09/27/2016 - 03:38 pm.

        More Risks

        You suggest that Hillary’s plan carries more risks than Donald’s. First, I challenge you to actually articulate what Trump’s plan is, because I can’t and I don’t think he can. Second, he has mentioned banning all Muslims from this country and has not ruled out the use of atomic weapons. How are those not vastly more risky than anything in Hillary’s plan?

      • Submitted by Ralf Wyman on 09/27/2016 - 04:22 pm.

        A few questions

        I’m curious, why do you think college and healthcare are bad things to fund?
        – Should we have a less educated workforce? How will that prepare us to compete in the global economy?
        – And should we backtrack on healthcare? Is 40 million an OK number of uninsured folks? 50 million? What about the family-devastating personal bankruptcies from medical bills that were common before ACA? Do you want those to come back?

        Then, let’s talk about police. Is it OK with you that they shoot first and don’t ask questions later (why ask, the suspect is dead?)? What level of police unaccountability and running roughshod over the citizenry is appropriate?

        To the last point, more than half of welfare recipients in the US receive benefits for 2 years or less. 34% are on for one year or less. These are people who are often displaced by job loss, medical crisis or divorce. They bounce back and rejoin the workforce. Should we throw them on the street penniless a la Dickens rather than help them get re-established?

        I cannot imagine living in the world you seem to want. Go ahead and vote for Trump. His “America is a disaster!” view of things is about as anti-Reagan as I can remember, and I’m 50 years old, so I remember plenty of elections.

        His Tarnished City in a Ditch view of our country is unconnected to reality, and the risks he’d inflict on our country untold. I’m pretty sure it’s the losing view of our nation, thankfully.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/27/2016 - 06:24 pm.


          Please remember that the government has no money that it does not first take from businesses or citizens, so when you see the words fund, invest, free, etc it implies raise taxes or take on debt. And if the taxes, mandatory wages/benefits, regulations, etc increase, so does the cost of doing business in America. Now if the American consumers are willing to pay significantly more for higher cost high domestic content products and services to offset this, everything is good. Unfortunately the past 50 years indicates that they are not.

          So yes as a life long learner I agree that education is important. The tax payers already fund ~50% of the higher ed costs in the country, I think the students should have some skin in the game since they will benefit from the learning.

          I am indifferent to ACA, it helped some people and hurt others. Universal healthcare just doubles down on this. And as noted above people who benefit the most from the healthcare should be paying for it. Not some distant tax payers.

          If people focused as much on straightening out their communities as they are on blaming the police officers I would be happy. Unfortunately they seem more interested in blaming the officers instead of reducing the number of single parent households, ensuring parents are held accountable for their child’s learning and behavior, fixing the school system, etc. If this happens, generational poverty, crime and accidental shootings will all drop off the charts. However it is hard to look in the mirror, and much easier to look elsewhere.

          Here are some public assistance stats. What worries me the most is that 50+ yrs and many many trillions of dollars there are as many poor as ever. We seem to be losing the war and something needs to change.

          Just curious, often people complain about how terrible things are in the inner city. (ie poor schools, high crime, high unemployment, racial inequality, businesses leaving those communities, poor city services, aggress police, etc) Why is it different when Trump says it?

          By the way, I don’t like Trump either. But turning the USA into a Social Democracy like France scares me more.

  4. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 09/27/2016 - 01:33 pm.

    I’ve read so many comments on this “debate” that I no longer

    remember where I read it, but someone brought up the point that the Cheater of Subcontractors is accustomed to feeding off the cheers of adoring fans.

    With the audience told not to cheer or applaud, he was lost.

    But if he were genuinely qualified, that would not matter.

    What little of the debate I saw for myself (I had another evening obligation) showed a man who was incoherent, childishly miffed at Hillary’s campaign ads (which were made up mostly of his own words), and unable to answer a simple and *very important* question about whether he would abide by the results of the election, even if it went against him.

    One of the Republicans I know from Facebook was most disturbed by his dodging this question, because she is concerned that Trump’s supporters will turn violent if he loses.

    None of this will matter to his adoring fans, who remind me more and more of a Japanese friend who was drawn into one of the many religious cults they have over there. Logical arguments do not work and only make a cultist repeat his or her canned statements louder and more frequently.

    I voted for Bernie Sanders in the primaries, and I am disappointed that he did not receive the nomination.

    However, what I see of Clinton’s supporters is that they are aware of her faults but support her as the best real-world alternative. I number myself among them. I can provide a list of Hillary’s faults to anyone who asks, but I also know that voting third party in this election is nothing but a temper tantrum. (I would feel differently if the Republican nominee were level-headed and knowledgeable.)

    Some of the Trump supporters I see appear to be motivated by misogyny. It was bad enough having a black president, but now a woman? Especially a woman whom the right-wing noise machine has spent twenty-five years teaching its audience to hate passionately? I have a high school classmate who is voting for Trump because “Hillary lies” and “Hillary yells.” That’s the answer to every request for clarification.

    Others are the types I have often observed in my life: angry, frustrated people who are justifiably angry but not very knowledgeable. They know they’re getting a raw deal, but they have been taught not to ask questions, not to investigate and make decisions based on knowledge, just to put up or shut up. They are natural prey for authoritarians, because they want someone forceful and aggressive who will fix everything for them. They are the psychological kin of those elderly Russians who are nostalgic for Stalin, because “he wouldn’t have allowed all this crime and corruption.”

    Barring a Jesse Ventura surprise–although Jesse seems like a model of logic and propriety compared to Trump–we will probably end up with Hillary barely making it into the White House.

    Whatever, I can’t wait for this election season to be over. It’s already about a year too long.

  5. Submitted by Mike Downing on 09/27/2016 - 05:12 pm.

    Tell the audience what they want to hear…

    Michael has advanced to today’s PC version of Journalism 401. He has told the MinnPost audience what they want to hear and ignore the polls that indicate Trump won the debate.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/27/2016 - 08:36 pm.


      Now I am anti-Clinton and her policies, and I still think she came off better than Trump.

      What surveys disagreed?

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 09/28/2016 - 08:33 am.


        The ones where a person is asked to “click here to vote.” They aren’t “surveys” that use any kind of sample, apart from the self-selection of participants.

    • Submitted by C.S. Senne on 09/28/2016 - 12:59 am.

      Post debate polls

      One might check out the Fortune Magazine, 9/27/16, article by Matthew Ingram that completely debunks the false Trump claim that he won all of the polls, except the CNN poll (scientifically conducted) that Clinton won 62% to 27%. Of course, Donald claimed that “no one watches CNN.” OK, then. However, the Fortune article details how the online polls were non scientific; people could vote as many times as they wanted, and the Trumpians were out in force to do just that. One poll falsely claiming to be ABC simply mimicked the ABC website. Trump also claimed to have “won” the CBS poll. Detail: CBS did NOT conduct a poll. Those who prefer Trumpian delusion can find solace in the lies, or they can wake up to the facts. Words matter. So do numbers.

  6. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 09/28/2016 - 05:46 pm.

    Which one respects the office?

    Many news outlets have commented on how unprepared Trump seemed for this debate, the first one-on-one he’s ever had to participate in. He actually criticized Hillary Clinton for “staying home” to prepare for the debate (and she took great advantage of that dumb comment).

    What does it mean for our country that Clinton was so well-prepared and Trump so ill-prepared for this debate? It means that she respects the office of President of the United States. He regards the presidency as a vehicle of his self-importance and his power to exact revenge on those who oppose him or contradict him. For Trump, to be president is to be Number One–it’s all about him. That’s why he hasn’t bothered to make and offer plans to us about how he would handle this or that problem.

    For Clinton, the presidency means taking responsibility for the well-being of hundreds of millions of Americans, and of others around the word. Working to improve lives, save lives. It’s not all about her. For her, it’s all about US.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/28/2016 - 09:00 pm.


      “For her, it’s all about US.”

      Now please remember that the Clinton’s are the couple who went from broke to being worth $100+ million and having a large charity with questionable donors over a ~16 year period. And she maintained a home server so she could control public access to “her” affairs and communications. She is not a Jimmy Carter who seeks to give and help wherever he can.

      I offer a different view, she believes that preparing for a debate is the best way for her to attain the power and influence that she has been pursuing for decades. I mean I understand, she is so close to attaining that power and it may be pulled away from her like it was in 2008. That would be terrifying and I would work hard to prepare.

      Clinton is more of an analytical introvert and therefore to store up energy and focus she tends to seek privacy. Trump is more of a extroverted collaborator and therefore being with people listening to them is what works for him.

      Having worked with both personalities for decades, neither is good or bad… They are just different.

      • Submitted by Sean Olsen on 09/29/2016 - 09:53 am.


        Preparing for something important is now seen as suspicious.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/29/2016 - 01:35 pm.


          Please remember that it was Constance throwing the rocks. I just said that they both prepared as fit their personal styles. And that this method has nothing do it with their motivations or what they value.

          As for “preparing for something important is now treated as suspicious”. I don’t think preparing is suspicious given her personality. It is natural to her, just like studying for a test.

          I think her 20+ years of position climbing, the big money foundation, the private server, the high dollar speeches to the money men, putting up with a lecherous husband, etc are what indicates that she is power hungry. The preparation is just how she thinks, energizes, etc.

  7. Submitted by John Appelen on 09/28/2016 - 09:19 pm.

    Planning vs Reality

    Since I don’t like Clinton or Trump, some of my readers are telling me I should vote for Clinton because she is the safe bet. I mean she has adopted many of the far Left planks from Bernie’s Social Democracy platform, and she has spent a lot analytical effort creating detailed plans for how she would do them which scares me to death. However my readers remind me that nothing she is selling will come to pass as long as the GOP controls the House, which is likely to happen.

    I mean their reasoning is very logical and practical. It is very likely that a vote for Hillary is a vote for 4 more years of gridlock. Which ironically I am a big fan of. If they would only freeze governmental spending for a couple of years, force the government to become more effective / efficient and let GDP growth raise the tax revenues so we could start paying down the debt… It would be perfect !!!

    So I asked the following questions: Why is Hillary making all of these promises that she will not be allowed to implement? Shouldn’t she be honest with her voters and explain this reality?

    Is it a bad or good thing that Trump does not sell a detailed plan that he knows may not become reality? Remember he is a deal maker so long term detailed plans are pointless to him… He will get between the GOP / DFL and see where they can agree to take things. Thoughts?

  8. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 09/29/2016 - 02:27 pm.

    Wonderful, to see how some people defend Trump’s lack of preparation for a debate watched by upwards of 90 million viewers as A Good Thing, because it means he’s not ambitious [oh, my]. Defend his lack of coherent plans for implementing anything he claims he’s going to do by saying Trump knows nothing will get passed anyway, so why should he bother?

    Let’s not forget that it is Hillary Clinton who has legislative experience, not Trump. Trump has never been elected to anything, never has acted in the public interest, never has worked for anyone but himself, and probably has paid very few federal income taxes in his time, so he’s not been contributing to even the military functions of our government. He stiffs his contractors, who are the ones maybe creating jobs. He wants to be Number One so he can get back at the people who don’t think he’s as great as he thinks he is. Please watch “The Choice,” the Frontline production for PBS that examines the lives of both these candidates.

    There is something in several comments in this thread that resents the fact that Hillary Clinton knows more about the job she and Trump are seeking than he has ever imagined about it. That she is really well-prepared while he is limited to throwing verbal spit-balls. She’s ambitious, and Why Not? She’s bright, well-educated, articulate, knows how to make a case and argue points effectively, she can put two and two together in public policy matters. And budgets.Can we stop criticizing women who outshine men, please? Can we stop attacking Hillary Clinton for her years’-long strategic planning to be President? And, please: stop confusing Bill with Hillary? Hillary can only be responsible for stuff since 2000, when she was elected to the U.S. Senate from New York and then became Secretary of State.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 09/29/2016 - 04:31 pm.


      Please remember that it is you who praised Hillary and attacked Trump.

      ” It means that she respects the office of President of the United States. He regards the presidency as a vehicle of his self-importance and his power to exact revenge on those who oppose him or contradict him.”

      I have no problem with Hillary choosing to do as her preparation method dictates. I am simply noting that their methods do not indicate their motives, intent, etc.

      Now I have a Mother, a Wife and 3 Daughters, I am absolutely comfortable with having Women in charge. That does not mean that I need to support Hillary just because she is a woman.

      By the way, if I remember correctly Hillary was a pretty politically active spouse before 2000. And she had know problem dragging up dirt on Trump from the 1970’s during the debate.

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